0

Francoeur, Keppinger in demand

The Associated Press . Kansas City Royals' Jeff Francoeur, a Parkview grad, hits an RBI single off Chicago White Sox starter Edwin Jackson on Wednesday in Chicago.

The Associated Press . Kansas City Royals' Jeff Francoeur, a Parkview grad, hits an RBI single off Chicago White Sox starter Edwin Jackson on Wednesday in Chicago.

Jeff Francoeur and Jeff Keppinger have a lot more in common now than just being Parkview graduates. That wasn't supposed to be the case, though.

Unlike Keppinger, who had been traded even before he reached the major leagues, Francoeur was supposed to be a permanent figure with his original team and in his hometown to boot.

So much for things working out as expected.

Both Francoeur and Keppinger are with a fourth major league team. It may be five before the end of the season.

Both are having good seasons. Their teams aren't.

That means deals to contending teams could be coming. The non-waiver trade deadline is at the end of the month and deals can still be worked out even after then.

Francoeur, who is generating the most rumors, knows all about mid-season swaps. He was dealt by the Braves to the New York Mets on July 10, 2009, and then swapped by the Mets to Texas last Aug. 31 after clearing waivers.

The late trade to the Rangers made him eligible for the postseason by just a few hours and he ended up benefiting with a trip to the World Series.

But Francoeur, 27, is a long way from that now. He signed as a free agent with Kansas City over the winter and the Royals, after an encouraging start, have the worst record in the American League.

Keppinger, 31, is stuck in that same losing rut with Houston, which has the worst record in the National League and all of the majors.

Neither Francoeur nor Keppinger is at fault for the losing. Quite the opposite. That's why they may be in demand by teams who hope to be headed to the postseason.

Francoeur, who had 12 homers and 53 RBIs with a .265 average through Wednesday, has already heard his name linked with Boston in the rumor mill. J.D. Drew, another former Brave from Georgia, is struggling and the Red Sox are interested in a right-handed hitter to platoon with him in right field.

Francoeur, who signed a one-year contract for $2.5 million with the Royals, could fit the bill. He hit .340 in 15 games with the Rangers as a platoon player after being acquired from the Mets and has 19 doubles, three triples and a career-best 14 stolen bases with Kansas City.

After already having been traded twice during the season, Francoeur insists that he isn't getting caught up in the rumors.

"I used to get on the websites and look at the trade rumor stuff and read it," he said. "I don't anymore. What's going to happen is going to happen."

Francoeur, whose contract has a $4 million mutual option for 2012, isn't hoping to be traded again.

"I've told everyone (with the Royals) that I like it here and I want to be here," he said. "I think I'm a good fit to help this team going forward, at least for the next couple of years."

Keppinger, meanwhile, has found some stability with the Astros after being drafted by Pittsburgh out of the University of Georgia and playing for the Mets, Royals and Cincinnati before getting to Houston.

The infielder hit .332 in half a season with the Reds in 2007 and is approaching that lofty range in his third year with the Astros.

Keppinger, whose salary with Houston is $2.3 million, missed almost two months at the start of the season following winter foot surgery, but had hit .323 in his first 35 games off the disabled list as the Astros' regular second baseman. He had struck out just six times through Wednesday, continuing as one of the hardest players to fan in the majors.

Part of Keppinger's appeal to a contender is also his versatility. He has played everywhere in the infield and has also seen a little time in the outfield.

Francoeur and Keppinger are used to being traded by now. Will it happen again this summer?